Me and my vote

Brendan O'Neill quizzes some of the great and the good on their voting intentions at the general election.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

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Since January I have been asking the famous and influential how they’ll be voting at the general election – and I’ve found some disgruntled voters in the process.

‘Look at Tony Blair’, said celebrity historian David Starkey. ‘All this “I’m a regular guy”, the wide-eyed stare and the charm, it’s all utterly plastic – it’s just there to cover an absolute hole, a complete intellectual, moral and principled hole.’

Agony aunt Virginia Ironside, who might ‘throw a vote in for the Liberal Democrats, just to sort of encourage them’, thought she had Blair’s problem sussed: ‘Blair is just peculiar – he’s a bit from Mars. He’s missing a chromosome somewhere. There is a fiendish quality to Blair, isn’t there? He’s a sort of mixture, as most fiendish people are, of extraordinary weakness and just being so out of touch with everything.’

Novelist Toby Litt, probably voting Labour but ‘not 100 percent certain’, suggested that maybe we should lay off: ‘Deep down Blair’s a New Testament kinda guy’, even if he does act ‘like a king, with us as his emotional subjects’.

No wonder Sir John Mortimer couldn’t think of ‘a single government minister I would like to lunch with’.

For David Starkey there was only one solution: ‘I shall hold my nose and vote for the Tories and hope that Anne Widdecombe falls under a bus – except I imagine the damage will be to the bus.’

The nation’s agony aunt Claire Rayner, who’s thinking of voting Lib Dem, sounded like she could do with a bit of her own medicine when she admitted, ‘I’m a very unhappy bunny’: ‘I’m wobbling like fury. There’s no force this side of Armagdeddon that would make me vote Tory, but the trouble is, I can’t be sure that voting for New Labour isn’t the same as voting Tory.’

Scourge of the world’s dictators John Pilger, who might vote Socialist Alliance, took a similar view (though he didn’t go for the ‘bunny’ descriptor): ‘There may be differences in nuance and in trivial matters. But ultimately they are both pro-business parties with a single ideology. It is like one state with two factions.’

Then came the bombing of Iraq – and some of the interviewees exploded. ‘I don’t know how any self-respecting person could vote for Labour after the fucking Iraq bombing – it’s just scandalous’, said the National Union of Journalists’ Tim Gopsill, who will only vote Labour if a left-wing Labourite stands in his constituency.

‘I thought that Labour was the non-bombing party and didn’t want to bomb anybody’, said renowned (and slightly perplexed) investigative journalist Phillip Knightley. ‘I thought it was a party devoted to peace and negotiations. Obviously I thought wrong.’ Nonetheless, Knightley has spent 50 years voting Labour around the world and is not about to stop now.

Novelist Lisa Appignanesi, definitely voting Labour, reckoned we’d all had more than enough time to decide whom to vote for – after all, ‘New Labour has run four years in government as if they were constantly running an election campaign‘.

And it wasn’t all bad. Tribune editor Mark Seddon is going to vote Labour, because although ‘Old Labour may be much weakened it does still exist in the party, somewhere’. Although, he pointed out, you can’t have ‘100 percent loyalty to something like New Labour, which is pretty much just an advertising slogan‘.

Talking of advertising, Phillip Knightley couldn’t ‘think of anything domestically that concerns me about [New Labour]. They have fulfilled everything I expected them to. Labour are imperfect, but they’re less imperfect than the others’.

Angry-young-man-turned-angry-old-man Alan Sillitoe remained unconvinced: ‘Vote for New Labour? No way. I hope they go down the fucking chute.’

Brendan O’Neill is coordinating the spiked-conference Panic attack: Interrogating our obsession with risk, on Friday 9 May 2003, at the Royal Institution in London.

Read on:

John Pilger and Philip Knightley
David Starkey and Tim Gopsill
Toby Litt and Lisa Appignanesi
Claire Rayner and Virginia Ironside
Alan Sillitoe and Mark Seddon

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Topics Politics


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